This week at Pinnacle’s Investment Summit, $3.5bn of FUM in LICs and ETFs was on show across five boutique fund managers debating their best practice initiatives to make their listed funds investor friendly in a rapid fire Q&A session hosted by Lonsec.
We’ve written previously on Livewire about the LIC industry’s need to Adapt or Die and the active ETF market that is about to BOOM and these fundie insights really gave great practical insights on the same hot button issues from these pieces and the burning questions on LIC and ETF investor’s minds.
The panel was peppered with tough questions on the outlook for LICs given the NTA discounts that pervade the sector, especially for listed global and Aussie equity LICs and whether this means the LIC structure is fundamentally flawed. The Panel hit back with Antipodes MD Andrew Findlay pointing to their recently announced shareholder friendly tender offer program designed to narrow the NTA discount on their LIC (APL) as innovation that LICs can undertake to ensure shareholders best interests are met. Don Hamson from Plato reminded us that LICs can help smooth the income stream for LIC shareholders, more so than in an open-ended trust, a contributing factor to the NTA premium that the Plato LIC PL8 trades at. Spheria’s Marcus Burns outlined how running small cap Aussie equity money inside an LIC can be beneficial to shareholders as Spheria were never concerned about what impact any redemptions may have had on their need to sell some of their best stock picks in the portfolio if those redemptions happened at the market lows during the COVID induced market rout in March. Instead they were able to stay fully invested and ride the recovery.
Metrics’ Andrew Lockhart cautioned against LITs that invest in tradeable bonds, especially offshore high yield bonds given their volatility and the readily tradeable nature of such bonds, making a closed end structure for such underlying assets questionable. He explained why private corporate loans as an alternative source of income where investors can earn an illiquid asset return premium justifies the use of a LIT structure as illiquid private loans does not allow a fund to provide daily redemptions to investors. This means they can't be wrapped inside an ETF. Even one of the most vocal critics of LICs, Coolabah’s Christopher Joye said he would not rule out doing an LIT if the strategy was compelling for investors and that his beef is with conflicted remuneration not with the closed end structure per se.
In ETF land, the panel reminded us how fortunate we are to have a regulatory and stock exchange backdrop that allows investors to access actively managed funds in listed form via active ETFs. This active ETF industry is also continuing to innovate to improve investor experiences. Coolabah discussed how bond ETFs did exactly what they were meant to do during the bond market rout in March by providing even better price transparency on bond prices than the underlying bond markets themselves. Antipodes talked about how the indicative intraday NAV on active ETFs is used to guide market makers on making prices for active ETFs on the stock exchange have become more accurate and more frequent as the industry evolves and innovates, all providing active ETF investors with better transparency and price certainty.
At the end of the day, the panel concluded that it’s best to let the investor decide whether an LIC/LIT or an ETF is right for them. Most of these fundies now run the same or similar strategies in closed-end and open-end form and with a listed and an unlisted version. More choice in both must be a good thing for investors and at the same time provide new areas of growth and innovation for the fund industry. Win-win.